Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Thought for the Day

It has been said that poetry is a kind of code, and this cannot fail to be true if, as some modern philosophers emphatically maintain, all writing, all language, is code. Even if this larger proposition is true, it can be stated that poetry is a code within a code, and this fixes upon it the imputation of elitism and exclusivity. It may be claimed that all of the arts are ultimately elitist, and in the most elementary way, being as they are addressed to a privileged group. For simply to be able to say that something is beautiful means to enjoy, however briefly, the favored position of luxurious serenity, freedom from acute pain, excessive anxiety, overwhelmed internal and external pressures. People in extremis––and there are multitudes of these at any given moment––are not connoisseurs of anything but their own plight. As for poetry in particular, it demands of its readers a greater diligence of attention, and it calls upon more concentrated powers of inference, drawn fom a wider range of reference, than ordinary expository prose; for that reason, many readers of, say, cheap fiction find it impenetrable, and unworthy of their effort.

-Anthony Hecht, from On the Laws of the Poetic Art (Princeton University Press, 1995), p. 101


I've made some real progress on Poem #3, which concerns a strange event in Mississippi history.


Blogger Andrew Shields said...

The poem about that "luxurious serenity" is "The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm," by Wallace Stevens.

But one should also read Adrienne Rich's brilliant page or so about that poem in her book "What Is Found There."

9:38 AM  

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